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THE SITUATION ROOM

Israeli Election; Ferguson Arrest; Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki; Police Deny Beating Man Suspected of Shooting Cops; CNN Poll: Clinton Ratings Drops Amid Email Uproar. Aired 6-7:00p ET

Aired March 16, 2015 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Under arrest. Police respond to allegations they beat a man who they say is admitting to shooting two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. Was he actually aiming at the cops or someone else?

No Palestinian state. On this, the eve of elections in Israel, elections he may lose, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu courts right-wing votes, vowing there won't be a two-state solution while he is prime minister of Israel. Is he playing politics or rejecting the plans he once supported?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following new developments in Russia, where 38,000 troops, thousands of military vehicles and dozens of warships and planes are on full alert right now. The country's Northern Fleet ordered into war games on the same day President Vladimir Putin made his first public appearance after not being seen for more than a week.

And now he is revealing just how close the conflict in Crimea came to a nuclear war. We're covering that story, much more this hour, with our correspondents and our guests, including the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

But let's begin at the Pentagon.

Barbara Starr has more on Vladimir Putin's sudden reappearance.

Barbara, what are you picking up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, maybe Vladimir Putin did have a head cold for the last 10 days. But that's not stopping the questions about what is really going on behind Kremlin walls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Vladimir Putin reappeared for the first time in 10 days, making light of his absence, saying it would be boring without gossip, gossip that captured world attention not seen since Cold War days when ousted Soviet leaders suddenly failed to appear. Did this Russian leader have the flu, back trouble? Even reports he went to Switzerland to be with his girlfriend for the birth of his baby.

Publicly, Russia and the U.S. making light of it all.

QUESTION: Was the president pleased to see Vladimir Putin resurface?

(LAUGHTER)

STARR: Behind the scenes, the U.S. says it believes Putin was ill, but was always in charge. Not so fast, say some experts.

STEVEN PIFER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UKRAINE: In a normal country, had you had this kind of situation, they would have had a photo-op with the president. Why didn't they do it with Mr. Putin?

STARR: Is Putin, always wanting to be seen as the strong man, in a weakened political position?

PIFER: I think that there may be something going on inside the Kremlin that we don't fully understand.

STARR: What we do know, Putin has been under fire by protesters after the murder of his opponent Boris Nemtsov. And there is more trouble, as Russians begin to realize they are losing troops in the battle for Eastern Ukraine.

According to a new report from Britain's independent Royal United Services Institute, some Russian units are so decimated by casualties that new ad hoc front line units are being formed in the field. The Interior Ministry has sent in special teams to keep Russian soldiers from retreating. Some Russian conscripts are being tricked into signing long-term enlistment papers.

Still, Putin making more military shows of force. U.S. military officials say he is sending increasing numbers of nuclear-capable aircraft into Crimea, though no nuclear weapons. And he has just ordered snap military exercises of the Northern Fleet in the Arctic, according to state-run media, involving some 40,000 troops.

The Pentagon warning the Arctic is being militarized.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: The Russians have just taken a decision to activate six new brigades and four of them will be in the Arctic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, if you thought all of this wasn't enough, in a new documentary seen on Russian state TV, Vladimir Putin says he thought about putting those nuclear forces on alert a year ago during the Crimea crisis, that he actually thought about doing it. He referenced it as a worst-case scenario, but still another indication for the U.S. that Putin is using his military to stir up tension. And that is a huge concern, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is, understandably so. Thanks, Barbara, very much.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart plan to meet once again tomorrow in Switzerland after five hours of talks today on containing Iran's nuclear program. A source tells CNN the Iranians are now raising the issue of that controversial letter from 47 Republican senators warning Iran any deal could die when the Obama administration ends.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is standing by.

Jim, it sounds like this letter could be having an actual impact on the negotiations.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's having an impact. The president is furious about it, Wolf. Senior administration officials say, as you say, Iranian negotiators did indeed raise Senator Tom Cotton's letter to the ayatollah in those sensitive nuclear talks that are currently under way in Switzerland.

<18:05:06> But U.S. officials are confident the letter will only be what they are calling a distraction at this point. Cotton is not backing down, by the way, saying he has no regrets about the letter which was signed by 46 of his GOP colleagues and complained about the nuclear negotiations to Iran's ruling clerics.

But the flare-up with Republicans was enough for the White House chief of staff to send his own letter to GOP Senator Bob Corker, assuring him Congress will have a vote on the sanctions that would have to be loosened at part of any deal with Iran. But in a new excerpt from his inter taped last week with VICE, President Obama said Cotton's letter was damaging to the nation. Here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a good example, I think, of where the state of our politics that leads Republicans to be more worried about a Tea Party primary than they are about what ordinary folks are thinking, it damages the country. It damages our standing. It's not productive. In this day and age, where we have got such big issues, we can't afford it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said congratulations critics are missing a key point, that there's no deal yet. But Earnest said the White House would rather Congress hold off on any votes on Iran well beyond the end of March, when a framework agreement must be reached and at least until June. That's the deadline for a final deal.

Wolf, that's months and months of Congress holding off on any legislation. It's doubtful that Republicans will go along with that, not even talking about Democrats. They're likely to balk as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get more on what's going on.

Joining us now, the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Great to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jen, thanks very much for coming on.

What happens to this deal? And we don't know if there will be a deal. There may be a deal. There might not be a deal. But if there is a deal, what happens to the deal if Congress in a roll call vote rejects it?

PSAKI: First of all, there isn't a vote that Congress is going to have on an up-or-down vote on a deal.

They will have a role. Congress will continue to have a role, when it comes to a point in the process where they would roll back sanctions. That's always been the case. And Denis McDonough's letter just reiterated the role that they would have.

BLITZER: But what if in a roll call vote to eliminate or ease up the sanctions against Iran, they reject what the secretary presumably is maybe promising the Iranians as part of a deal, that the U.S. will loosen the sanctions?

PSAKI: We have been having this debate for some time in Congress. The question really is, is, what is your goal here? If we are at a point of reaching a deal where we can prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, where we can roll back the steps they have taken forward, why would you need to put sanctions in place?

Sanctions are not a hard vote. I think nobody should forget that President Obama and Secretary Kerry were the ones who led the fight to put sanctions in place. But the whole point was to get the Iranians to the table. They are at the table. Now the point is to see if we can come to a comprehensive deal.

BLITZER: Many members of Congress, not just Republicans, but Democrats, say it was Congress that put pressure on the administration to impose the sanctions against Iran in the first place.

PSAKI: Well, Secretary Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time. He worked very closely with President Obama. They both felt that was the strong step and it was the right policy to move forward. And they will be leading the charge if these negotiations fall apart.

BLITZER: Hypothetically, what if you have to ease sanctions, part of the deal?

PSAKI: You know how I feel about hypotheticals.

BLITZER: Yes, I know. Let's say you have to ease sanctions, it's part of the deal, but Congress doesn't approve it. PSAKI: Congress doesn't approve easing sanctions as part of the

deal?

BLITZER: Right. Let's say that you make a commitment as part of the agreement with the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. One of the features is that as part of Iran living up to its commitments, the U.S. will ease sanctions, sanctions imposed originally by Congress which have to be eased by Congress. What if they decide they don't want to do it?

PSAKI: First, I think any member of Congress will look at the totality of the deal, as they should. What are the components that lead to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? What does it mean, what does it require from us?

I would remind you too that we have been briefing Congress on this issue probably more than any other issue during this administration. They are very up to date on where things stand. But there's no deal to brief them on at this point. I'm sure we will have a discussion at that point. But their role would be some time from now. It wouldn't be immediate.

BLITZER: Three of the key U.S. allies in the region, the government of Israel, as you well know, the government of Saudi Arabia, the government of the United Arab Emirates, they don't like this deal at all. They are very worried about it. What do you say to these friends of the United States when they raise these alarm bells?

PSAKI: Secretary Kerry went to Saudi Arabia right after the last round to have this exact discussion, and talk about other issues, of course, not because they have shown the resistance to the deal or resistance to a deal that people seem to be indicating, but because they are important partners and important people, countries we should be briefing.

The fact is that they agree that Iran having a nuclear weapon would be detrimental to the region. They don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But they want to see what a final deal will look like. And we agree. That's why we want to keep them up to date.

<18:10:04> BLITZER: The Saudi prince, Turki al-Faisal, the former intelligence chief, he was the ISIS ambassador here in Washington, he told the BBC, if any deal allows Iran to continue enriching uranium, the Saudis and everyone else are going to want to do the same thing.

PSAKI: Well, one, I don't believe Prince Turki has a role in the Saudi government right now.

But, two, this is a process that is ongoing. Every component of the deal will be vitally important, we will be briefing our partners on. I think the third piece here, Wolf, is that we're not opposed to peaceful nuclear power, a peaceful program. That's something many countries aspire to. If they're abiding by the NPT, which Iran would be a part of, then certainly, they would be meeting requirements. It's about preventing them from taking this into a detrimental direction. BLITZER: "The Los Angeles Times" is reporting that the U.S. in

recent years actually built a replica of Iran's nuclear reactor to try to determine how long it would today for them to emerge from the enriching of the uranium, the centrifuges, to actually build a bomb. Is that story true?

PSAKI: I don't have any comment on that. Wolf, I think the main point here is that we want to get to a one-year breakout time. That gives us plenty of time, actually more than enough time by most analysts to take any action if needed.

BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment, Jen Psaki. We're going to take a quick break.

Much more, including what's going on with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We will take a quick break. More with the State Department spokeswoman when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

<18:16:03> BLITZER: We are following disturbing news from Russia.

The president, Vladimir Putin, revealing on state Russian TV that he considered putting his nuclear weapons on alert as Russian forces were annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

We're back with the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

How worried are you -- when I say you, I mean the United States government -- about what's going on in Russia with Putin right now?

PSAKI: Well, certainly, this is one of the countries that we watch very closely.

I think if we step back for a moment here, Wolf, it's hard to believe that with their economy in tatters and going into the toilet, he would spend two hours on a documentary or more time about himself. That does tell you something about what's happening in Russia and the propaganda machine at work there.

BLITZER: It seems to be making him even more popular, despite the collapse of the Russian economy. Oil is at a low point, obviously. They rely on oil exports. The sanctions have been having an impact. But his numbers go up and up and up.

PSAKI: Well, unlike in the United States, there's no SITUATION ROOM in Russia. There's no free media that's prevalent in Russia. I think they get what they are fed, which is a little bit different.

BLITZER: Are we on the verge of another Cold War?

PSAKI: I certainly would not put it in those terms. I think there's no question we're deeply concerned about the actions and the rhetoric of Russia. The actions they have taken in Ukraine over the last year, we're just about the one-year anniversary here, which is of course what the documentary was about. And since then, we have seen the deaths, the detainment, the

suffering of many, many people in Ukraine, a sovereign country. That certainly is of big concern to the United States.

BLITZER: Was the secretary of John Kerry, your boss, was he right, did he make a mistake, did he misspeak when he said over the weekend in that interview with CBS News that the U.S. is willing to negotiate some sort of settlement with the Syrian leader, Bashar al- Assad?

PSAKI: Well, first, I think people forget because this process has been on hold for so long that it has always been the plan that members of the opposition would talk to members of the regime.

Sure, he was shorthanding Assad regime, but it would be representative of the regime. And that would be by mutual consent, which is both sides would need to agree who would be at the table. Unfortunately, there is no process happening right now. That's the biggest concern to us. But, no, that's consistently been our position.

The opposition could talk to themselves and that certainly wouldn't produce an outcome that would bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people.

BLITZER: Because I raise the issue because, as you know, in Syria, the last few years, more than 200,000 Syrians have been killed in this brutal civil war that's been going on.

Let me play a clip. This is two years ago. Susan Rice, she was then the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She's now the president's national security adviser. She was on my show. And we spoke about her message to Bashar al-Assad, what she would say to him. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Your days are numbered and it is time and past time for you to transfer power responsibly and peacefully. The longer you hang on, the more damage you do yourself, your family, your interests and, indeed, your country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Actually ,that was three years ago, February 7, 2012.

He is still hanging on right now, isn't he?

PSAKI: Yes, he is.

Unfortunately, there have been an influx of outside support and outside help. We have been talking about foreign fighters. There's been the help of Iran, Hezbollah. That has certainly impacted and boosted up the support that Assad has had. But I will tell you, I spend a lot of time with Secretary Kerry.

He feels exactly the same way. There's no place for Assad in the future of Syria. He is a brutal dictator who has killed tens of thousands of his people. That has not changed.

BLITZER: He should have said that in the interview, right, what you just said.

PSAKI: He had said that frequently.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I know, but just to be clear, because it made it sound like he was willing to negotiate.

PSAKI: But I think it's important for people to understand that we believe that a political negotiation that would require both sides at the table is the way to bring an end to the suffering. It's not a military solution. That's consistently been our position.

BLITZER: The Israeli elections are tomorrow. Today, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu says if he is reelected there will be no Palestinian state, two-state solution. What do you say to that?

<18:20:02> PSAKI: Well, I'm going to be very careful here, Wolf, because we have been very careful not to engage in or insert ourselves into the Israeli elections. They are tomorrow.

A lot of things are said leading up to an election, even here in the United States, as you know. So, we will see what happens after the election. And certainly our belief is that a two-state solution is the only way to bring peace and stability to the region.

BLITZER: The U.S. definitely supports Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine.

PSAKI: Yes.

BLITZER: And if the new Israeli government, whoever were to emerge -- let's say he gets reelected -- were to reject that, that would undermine the whole U.S.-Israeli relations.

PSAKI: Let's see what happens.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's see what happens, what happens in the election tomorrow. He may win. He may lose. It's going to be very close. We will of course have special coverage, more on the election coming up.

What's going on in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Right now? Because the U.S. Embassy, we're told consular services yesterday and today have been shut down because of heightened security concerns in Saudi Arabia. What's going on there?

PSAKI: One of the things the State Department does is inform American citizens and people around the world when there is a credible threat, when there's a threat that people need to have information about. So what we did here is, we put information out publicly over the weekend. Our embassy services have been shut down for two days.

I don't have an update on when they will reopen. But we just take every precaution necessarily to protect American citizens.

BLITZER: Because this is a major U.S. Embassy. There are not a lot of Americans who are working there. Are those Americans and their families -- because families are still there as well. Are they in danger right now? How serious is this?

PSAKI: We have not changed our staffing. We have not changed anything in that regard. Obviously, we take every precaution as it relates to security. But we also have a responsibility to provide information we have access to. And that was the case here.

BLITZER: I'm going to end with this video. I am going to show it to you and show it our viewers. This is your boss, the secretary of state, John Kerry. He is there. He is riding his bike in Switzerland, getting a little exercise. He is the guy in the middle over there and you can see him in the dark jersey. He is in pretty good shape, isn't he?

PSAKI: He is. He is a renaissance man. I can promise you, just for the record, I was not involved in the biking event, though.

BLITZER: He is on the phone there. He is obviously taking -- is he speaking to you on that? Is he calling you, Jen, to ask what's going on here in Washington?

PSAKI: No. No.

BLITZER: He's not?

PSAKI: He spends more time on the phone with his interlocutors around the world than probably any of his predecessors. So, I'm betting he was on that phone with a foreign minister.

BLITZER: I assume that cell phone is secure, right?

PSAKI: He doesn't have to do every phone call secure. He could have been talking to his daughter, too. You never know.

BLITZER: Could have been having a private conversation.

PSAKI: Could have been.

BLITZER: Jen Psaki, thanks very much for joining us.

PSAKI: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: She's the outgoing spokeswoman at the State Department. She will soon be communications director at the White House, right?

PSAKI: Yes.

BLITZER: Good luck in the new job.

PSAKI: Thank you very much, Wolf.

PSAKI: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Just ahead, new details of the man police say admitting to shooting two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. Was he aiming for someone else?

And police now responding to an allegation that they beat the suspect while he was in custody. We're going live to Ferguson. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

<18:27:03> BLITZER: Police in Ferguson, Missouri, are denying an allegation that the man suspected of shooting two police officers was beaten in custody. But now we're learning details of the shooting which has sent tension in the community soaring.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Ferguson for us.

What's the latest you are seeing over there, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, last week some law enforcement officials here in the St. Louis area described the shooting as an ambush of two police officers.

But now prosecutors are saying that the suspect in this case might not have been shooting at the police officers at all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The gunfire set off a frenzy of fear just outside the Ferguson Police Department. Now police say Jeffrey Williams admits he fired the shots that wounded two police officers during protests last week, but the 20-year-old insists he wasn't aiming at officers. Prosecutors say Williams might have been shooting at someone else in the crowd.

Bishop Derrick Robinson spoke with Williams. He says Williams is remorseful about his actions.

DERRICK ROBINSON, BISHOP: He told me he was he had been robbed and he was self-defending himself and wished that he could replay that all over again. He was very hurtful for what happened and that he was very apologetic. He told me, he said, that's not the way he is.

LAVANDERA: Prosecutors have charged Williams with two counts of first-degree assault and for firing a weapon from a vehicle as well as three counts of armed criminal activity. Williams was already on probation on a charge stemming from receiving stolen property. The St. Louis County prosecutor is skeptical of Williams' story.

ROBERT MCCULLOCH, SAINT LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: He may have had a dispute with some other individuals or felt in some dispute. We're not sure we completely buy that part of it.

LAVANDERA: The prosecutors says investigators are still trying to interview witnesses and learn more about the altercation which led to the shots being fired. Bishop Robinson, who has been heavily involved in the Ferguson protest movement, also accuses law enforcement officials of mistreating Williams since he was arrested Saturday night.

ROBINSON: He was brutally beaten by the police. And he was sore, still had bruises all around his neck, his back and his entire body and also was denied medical attention. And also he was placed in isolation when he asked for medical attention.

LAVANDERA: Monday, the Saint Louis County Police Department called those allegations completely false and added in a statement that, "Every person who enters justice services is seen by a nurse who evaluates each inmate to see if they are fit for confinement. The nurse released Williams as fit for confinement."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, a slice of good news here.

Those two police officers that were wounded in last week's shooting, we are told that they are making a good recovery, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good news. Good to hear that. Thanks very much, Ed Lavandera.

Let's dig deeper right now with CNN's Don Lemon; community activist John Gaskin; St. Louis city alderman Antonio French; and CNN law enforcement Tom Fuentes.

Antonio, take a look at this video. This was the scuffle right before the two police officers were shot in Ferguson. The suspect, Jeffrey Williams, says he wasn't aiming at the police but opened fire, he acknowledges, after a dispute with other individuals. What did you know? What was going on here?

ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS CITY ALDERMAN: Well, there was a fight earlier. I'm not sure if that was Mr. Wilson -- Williams or if that was someone else. Regardless, you know, what apparently this suspect did was irresponsible, dangerous, a criminal act. It harmed two law- enforcement officers, and it also harmed the efforts of protesters out there and put their lives in danger, as well. So he won't get much sympathy from me.

BLITZER: Do you believe he was beaten up by police while in custody?

FRENCH: I don't know. I haven't seen any evidence to that. If -- if he has been mistreated or in any way his civil rights have been violated, that's something that, you know, we should look into. But I haven't seen any credible evidence to that. I'm sure he will attain an attorney very soon, and we will hear from his attorney. BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you were there in Ferguson on Friday. We

remember your reports walking up and down the hill outside the Ferguson Police Station. Does this story that he is telling of being in a car, not aiming at the police but just shooting at somebody, does it make sense to you?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No. No, Wolf. I think that the fact that those officers were standing side by side when they were hit just sounds like if he's up the street 100 yards away plus, having a scuffle with somebody, fires four shots; and they just happen to hit two officers standing side by side, that sounds a little bit hard to believe for me.

BLITZER: Civilians are protesting -- had moved away from the area, making it very -- a straight line from atop that hill. Presumably he was in that vehicle shooting. It was obviously going to hit the police.

FUENTES: Right.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Can I tell you about...

BLITZER: Go ahead, Don.

LEMON: So I spoke -- when I was there last week, I spoke to several witnesses. And we talked about that video that you have of the altercation.

Apparently --again, this is according to them. There was a young lady in the crowd. She had her child with her. And some of the protesters were questioning the late -- the hour and whether it was appropriate for her to have that child with her.

And also, the child had a toy gun with him. And so they were questioning that. They went back and forth about that: "Who do you think you're talking to? This is my child," what have you. And then that's when the altercation happened.

The reason the officers don't get involved there is because they are on high alert about civil rights, abusing someone's civil rights and being accused of that. So if it's -- if it's an altercation or something like that that does not involve them, they're not being directly threatened, then they may not -- they probably won't get involved in it; because, again, they don't want to start a bigger commotion. They're told to stand down, pretty much, unless it affects you.

And the officers out there all know most of the protesters. They've seen them, because they are there almost every single day. So they know what's going on in the crowd.

BLITZER: Yes. They also say most of them that this Jeffrey Williams, the suspect in the shooting of these two police officers, was not one of the usual protesters who would show up.

John Gaskin, I want you to look at some of the Facebook posts. We believe these are from the suspect, Jeffrey Williams', page. In one post, he references the looting on West Florence Street. In another he expresses disdain for police. In this post, he shared a re-enactment video of the Michael Brown shooting.

Was he just out there that night to cause trouble? This wasn't necessarily an outside agitator. He's from the St. Louis area, right?

JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: That's what we're hearing. You know, I don't know this particular gentleman. I've never seen him before.

But what I will say is this. I have to agree with Antonio 100 percent on this. Regardless of if he was a protester or not, to have a firearm out there with that many people around, not only did he put other civilians at risk, but he obviously hurt two law-enforcement officers. So I don't think there's very much sympathy to be had for this situation here.

But what I do hope is that he will receive an impartial process, and they will get to the bottom of what happened and who injured those -- those two officers. Because a great number of people were put in -- put in harm's way that evening.

BLITZER: They certainly were. Antonio, do you know where this suspect got that gun? Did he legally have it? Did he steal it? Did somebody give it to you? Do you have any idea?

FRENCH: I don't know. I haven't heard any details on the specific weapon. But you know, in St. Louis and in Missouri, it's very easy to get a gun. Missouri gun laws are very lax, and so it's very easy. And many people have them.

But you know, a protest site is not a place to bring them and definitely not to fire into a crowd.

BLITZER: You know, Tom Fuentes, do you have any idea where he got the gun?

<18:35:03> FUENTES: No, I don't. One of the concerns the police have here -- I know much has been made of whether he was a protester or not. They don't want him to have been a protestor, to show that protestors were inclined to be violent.

But on the other, if he's not a protester, here's your typical 19-year-old kid wondering the streets with a loaded gun, gets in an altercation. He claims he had been robbed. So robberies were occurring within the block of dozens of police officers. You know, does that mean that neighborhood is so violent? Maybe that's why the police are concerned for their own safety.

BLITZER: Don Lemon, take a look at this picture. I'll put it up on the screen. It's a smiling Darren Wilson. He's the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. A picture reported at a fundraiser held for him by a St. Louis area law-enforcement legal support group entitled Hunt for Justice. What do you make of this? LEMON: Well, you know, it's tough. Some people say it's not

appropriate for him to be out. I have to say in the -- to the investigations that played out and the grand jury and also the Department of Justice, which showed that he -- you know, there was no reason to indict him, I think if you are innocent and -- you know, you go on and live your life. We can judge whether it's appropriate or not.

But I think, considering the findings that it is -- I'm sure he wants to move on with his life. And so I think that, if people are helping him out and he's having financial issues, because he's no longer with the police department, what have you, then you know, that's America. He's found not guilty.

BLITZER: Let me ask Antonio French. What do you think?

FRENCH: People have a right to support who they want to support and help who they want to help.

I know just a few weeks from the shooting, even before the grand jury came back, he'd already raised over half a million dollars. By some estimates that amount has grown to over a million dollars now.

You know, it -- his supporters have a right to support him. It does anger and really irritate people who have been supportive of the Brown family and recognize that a young man had died. It's a little distasteful in their eyes for somebody to profit from that.

BLITZER: Give me a quick thought, John Gaskin.

GASKIN: Well, Don is right. It's his right. Now, I certainly would not be boasting about that or promoting it via social media. That's my opinion. But it is his right; a very unfortunate situation.

BLITZER: He's going to have legal expenses, because there's going to be a civil lawsuit, wrongful death lawsuit that's going to be filed.

FUENTES: Also, Wilson said that his only childhood dream was to be a police officer. He probably never will be able to do that again. So we don't know how he's going to be able to earn a living in the future and pay legal expenses. And he's bound to get sued civilly pretty soon. So he's going to have economical, financial costs with no real means of getting it other than this kind of support.

BLITZER: All right. Tom Fuentes, Antonio French, John Gaskin, Don Lemon. Don's going to be back later tonight with much more on this. All the day's important news, "CNN TONIGHT," 10 p.m. Eastern. Among other things, Don is going to be interviewing Trinidad James. His song was part of the infamous video showing the former SAE house mother at the University of Oklahoma chanting a racial slur. Don, 10 p.m. Eastern. We, of course, will be watching.

Just ahead, a shocking turnaround by Israel's prime minister. Is it a desperate move just hours before a very close election?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just over six hours until voting begins in Israel on an election that polls indicate could potentially unseat the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Now he's making a last-minute bid for right-wing votes.

Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott is in Jerusalem joining us right now.

Elise, the prime minister showing real vulnerability right now. What are the chances he could lose his job?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's possible, Wolf. He's down four seats in the polls behind Isaac Herzog, the Zionist Camp Party. Some of the other left-wing parties are also doing very well. It's entirely possible that Netanyahu does not have enough support to form a government.

But there are more right-wing voters and right seats out there than the left. So if they come out in big numbers, Netanyahu can turn it around with support from the center right, those far right parties.

And that's what he's been doing last few days, making these statements about not supporting a Palestinian state. He's trying to energize the right to come out and vote. And there's some evidence he's starting to turn it around. The Israeli channels tonight saying he is closing the gap. And everyone here says, "Don't count out Netanyahu." They don't call him the Teflon prime minister for nothing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It's going to be a close election, I'm sure. We won't get results, obviously, until tomorrow night.

The last statements, though, that he's been making about no withdrawals from the West Bank, no concessions to the Palestinians, no longer supporting what's called a two-state solution, Israel alongside a new state of Palestine. He has supported that over the past few years, even though the peace process hasn't gone anywhere at all. Why is he doing this?

LABOTT: Well, you know, the left would simply argue that he's showing his true colors. And that's why Herzog has pledged to restart the peace process, should lead this country.

But I think Israeli voters who were supportive of the peace process weren't going to vote for him anyway. It's not clear whether the right, who he's trying to get out and vote by giving these, you know, controversial statements that the right wants to hear, really believes him. I've heard that a lot of people don't believe the promises that he makes, particularly on the Palestinian issue.

But, you know, Wolf, he is distancing himself from these longstanding positions that he supported a two-state solution. So, if he is re-elected, this is really going to further complicate relations with the Obama administration. You know, Kerry -- Secretary of State John Kerry would like to take another go at this. So, if Netanyahu is re-elected, I'm not sure he's going to be

very successful of that.

BLITZER: Yes, you heard what Jen Psaki, State Department spokesman, said here earlier this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM. She said, you know what, politicians say a lot of stuff before an election. Let's see what happens after an election.

Right now, it's a close election. He may or may not get re- elected. We will find out soon.

Elise is going to be busy woman tomorrow, thanks very much for joining us.

We'll have much more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

<18:50:35> BLITZER: Tonight, an exclusive new poll by CNN and ORC shows the controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of private e-mail while serving as secretary of state may be taking a toll as she moves closer to an all but certain run for president.

Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So, what's the latest? What are we seeing?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, something that should be a concern to Hillary Clinton, about a quarter of Democrats think she did something wrong by using only personal e- mail to conduct government business while secretary of state. But a majority of Americans view her in a favorable light even though her favorability is down from a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Today at the Irish America Hall of Fame luncheon, Hillary Clinton tried to keep the focus on promoting women, and moved on from talk of her e-mails.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Where women are involved, and therefore, where the work of peace permeates down to the kitchen table, to the backyard, there's a much better chance that the agreement will hold.

KEILAR: A new CNN/ORC poll shows that Clinton is taking a small hit in favorability in the wake of her e-mail controversy. Her favorable rating dropped 6 points since last November. Still, at 53 percent, it's a number many politicians would envy.

Fifty percent of those surveyed say that Clinton is honest and trustworthy, down from 56 percent a year ago.

CLINTON: I thought it would be easier to carry one device for my work and for my personal e-mails instead of two. KEILAR: Republicans, claiming Clinton was trying to hide e-mails

with the account, have taken aim. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Committee investigating the terror attack in Benghazi, has subpoenaed Clinton's e-mails relating to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz is considering doing the same if the State Department doesn't voluntary comply with request.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I had a BlackBerry. It's part of my official portrait for crying out loud. There was nothing to hide.

KEILAR: But now, Jeb Bush, one of Clinton's potential Republican rivals, who has knocked Clinton's e-mail practices, is facing criticisms from Democrats who say he was not as apparent as he alleges. After he was governor of Florida, Bush submitted 280,000 of his e-mails to be archived, turning over the latest batch of 25,000 just last year. He posted them all on a public Web site earlier this year.

BUSH: We've now made all of my e-mails long before Mrs. Clinton's issues came up. We made them public for you to see. So, it's totally different.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: A spokesman for Jeb Bush makes the point that Bush's documents are on a Web site and were posted there before Clinton under pressure asked the State Department to release hers. These concerns about Bush's e-mails aren't garnering the same level of scrutiny that Clinton's have.

And, Wolf, you know, there's a point that many are making that being a governor is a very different position than secretary of state, which is obviously one of the top positions in the federal government.

BLITZER: Certainly is. All right. Thanks very much. Don't go far away. We have a lot to discuss.

Also, I want to bring in our chief national correspondent John King, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

So, these questions now, Jeff, about Hillary's emails, Jeb Bush's e-mails, transparency -- that likely to be a big issue in this upcoming campaign?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think it's an issue in the pre-game of the campaign, because there's not that much to talk about specifically. But the burden is clearly higher on people who've been in the public life the longest, and Hillary Clinton is at the top of that list, and Jeb Bush is right after that.

So, for right now, transparency is an issue. But at the end of the day, the elections are about the future and about what they're going to do for the future. So, I think this will blow over as we go on.

BLITZER: As you noticed, though, Gloria, the new CNN/ORC poll shows Hillary Clinton taken a six-point hit on her favorability number since last November. Did this come with the territory? Are you surprised what's going on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it comes with the territory, Wolf, when people start regarding you as a politician again, and Hillary Clinton has played a couple of different roles.

Take a look at this at this -- we put this together from our polling, this little graph here, which I love. June 2008 when Hillary Clinton just as she ended her candidacy, you see her favorable opinion at 53 percent. That's exactly where it is right now, Wolf, again. She was regarded as a politician.

<18:55:00> If you look at September 2011, her favorability is hugely high, 69 percent. Secretary of state, took herself out of the political realm, said to people, you know, traveling the world on behalf of the United States of America -- not in the world of politics, her popularity was high. So, she's back to where she was as a politician.

Again, 53 percent, there are lots of politicians who would take that number, I might add. President Obama being first among them.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- if you get to 53 percent.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Look at this number, John. Has Clinton done enough on e-mail? These are Democrats, 68 percent say yes, 30 percent of Democrats say no.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so, you can read that and say, wow, there's an opening. There's an opening. It's a potential opening. About the same number of Democrats, same percentage also say they think she's done something wrong.

However, to exploit that opening, you would want to have to cease it. Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, a potential Democratic candidate, says I don't want to talk about this. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, the independent who may run as Democrat, says, I don't want to talk about this.

So, if there were a credible Democratic challenger who would want to go after her, there's a potential opening there. But who is that Democrat, Wolf?

So, Democrats see that and say she's taking a hit. She's got some work to do. If you look at it, there's no question she's taking a short-term

hit here. The bigger question, that's why this poll would be so valuable to us in two or three months from now, is that lasting damage, can she improve the honesty and trustworthy numbers? Can she recover from this? Because her structurals are actually pretty good, high approval ratings and others.

BORGER: And about half of independent voters say that it's a problem. So, if it continues to be something that's harped on, at some point, you can see if it becoming an issue in a general election with independents.

BLITZER: You've been following the Clinton campaign. We can call it a Clinton campaign. How worried are they about this?

KEILAR: I don't think they are terribly worried. And I think part of it is you can look at some of the numbers that we have. Yes, she took a hit on favorability. Yes, she took a hit on trustworthiness, and it's hard to tell if it's the e-mails or a little bit of both.

She's still nine points net favorable. That's not bad, 53 to 44. And then also, when you look at some of the questions in this poll, do you believe what Hillary Clinton says? A majority of people say yes. And also, 57 percent say that they would be proud to have her as president. That's actually up from 50 percent.

BLITZER: Let me move on, Jeff, and get your thoughts on this health insurance. Obamacare has been in business now for several years, 16.4 million people now have health insurance. Republicans are still fighting, obviously, to try to repeal it. The law has a major challenge coming up before presumably the United States Supreme Court. As we know, right now, that could be a major challenge.

How is this playing out politically right now?

ZELENY: Well, certainly, it's a strong number for the administration. I mean, that is the highest point it's ever been. And it shows that the Republicans could have a problem on their hands if the Supreme Court tosses it out because this would be taking something away from all of these people. And there's not much of a backup plan.

Are the beginning early signs of them in the House and the Senate if the Supreme Court would sort of change this law? But it shows that the burden is on Republicans, but it shows, by the large, this is working. Yes, some premiums have gone up and it's not totally popular. But it is -- it's definitely coming along.

BLITZER: The Supreme Court has to decide whether the subsidy states -- if that goes away, that potentially could kill the whole program.

BORGER: Well, it could kill a significant part of the program. Look, if you look at these numbers, more than 2 million of the people covered are kids who are under the age of 26 who remain insured through their parents. It's very hard to take something away from people politically and that they are enjoying, like losing pre- existing conditions, for example, which people are glad --

KING: And you still have some Republicans saying, you know, repeal and replace.

BORGER: Right.

KING: There are a lot of smart Republicans who quietly say, we need to start talking about fixing and changing, not repealing, because it's hard to take something away. Republicans have problem with nonwhite voters. The percentage of African-Americans without health insurance has been cut in half.

BORGER: Exactly.

KEILAR: Exactly. And huge gains among Latino Americans, another key constituency for Democrat that Republicans are hoping to cut into. But they gain big time here with their uninsured rate falling by over 12 percent.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Loretta Lynch. The nominee to be the next attorney general, what's the status of her confirmation?

BORGER: Well, it's all tied up in this piece of legislation that Republicans have said that they want to tie her to. And I think that the American public, it's why they are sick of politicians and I think they don't want to see it tied up in rigmarole.

And at some point, it's going to be tight. Joe Biden may have to break a tie. But she'll probably end up getting through.

ZELENY: The Democrats may have to give on this as well, though, if they want to see her confirmed.

BLITZER: On a separate issue. We're not going to --

BORGER: Human trafficking legislation.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Guys, thanks very, very much.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us, once again tomorrow. You can always watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.